By James Haught
James Haught is editor of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette, and a senior editor of Free Inquiry. He is 87-years-old and would like to help secular causes more. This series is a way of giving back.
Endlessly, Muslim suicide bombers detonate themselves to massacre defenseless strangers at Catholic cathedrals, Jewish restaurants, rival Islamic mosques and other public places. Undoubtedly, the volunteer ‘martyrs’ think they’re on missions so holy they are willing to sacrifice their own lives.
Each time this happens, I’m engulfed by a sense of lunacy. What kind of fanatics think God wants slaughter of innocent people?
Yet it occurs thousands of times. The Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University says 800 suicide bombers killed 5,560 people in 28 nations in 2016 — an all-time-high death toll. In 2015, some 735 martyrs killed 4,370. In 2014, the toll was 937 death volunteers and 4,400 victims, scarcely more than four casualties per martyr.
The so-called ‘cult of death’ has become the driving force of radical Islam. Without self-chosen martyrs, the religio-political movement would have little force. With them, it has become the worlds chief cause of bloodshed after the Cold War ended.
Holy suicide was little known until 1983, when a volunteer truck bomber killed 240 U.S. Marines at a barracks in Lebanon, and another killed 60 at the U.S. Embassy there. Ever since, it has surged into a global curse.
The most maddening aspect is the righteousness felt by the killers, who think they’re serving God, who will reward them with virgin nymphs in heaven. When 19 devout young men committed the historic U.S. attack on Sept. 11, 2001, they left behind a written testimonial saying the ‘women of paradise’ awaited them.
Columnist David Brooks calls suicide martyrdom ‘the crack cocaine of warfare’. It unleashes the deepest and most addictive human passions — the thirst for vengeance, the desire for religious purity, the longing for earthly glory and eternal salvation. He said volunteers are promised ‘dark-eyed virgins in paradise’ who will greet them the instant they depart this life.
In some Islamic societies, families express joy when their sons or daughters sacrifice themselves in massacres. Announcements in newspapers, almost like wedding notices, tell of sons happily united with virgins in heaven. The BBC filmed a ‘paradise camp’ where children as young as eight are taught jihad (holy war) and martyrdom.
Columnist Brooks hopes that changing conditions may allow the frenzy of suicide bombings to burn itself out. But, so far, the phenomenon isn’t fading.
Ironically, religion is dwindling rapidly in Europe, America, Canada, Japan, Australia and other western democracies, especially among the young. Yet it spurs many young Muslims to kill themselves to kill others. It’s a strange contrast of faith, a gulf between the two civilizations.
This column appeared in his newspaper on April 15, 2017, and was syndicated nationally.
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists,American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e Agnósticos/Brazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
Image Credit: James Haught.